Roll your summertime with kids! (Role-Playing Teaching: Part 16)

Roll your summertime with kids!

Last time when I wrote about Role-Playing Games, I wrote about a great game for children, Bumbleberry Forest. I focused on more educational aspects of this system, so today I want to give you some reasons why playing RPGs with children may be a great idea for everyone involved – especially now, with summer break approaching.

Family Time

If you’re Polish you may visit a group on FB called “Mamo tato zagrajmy w RPG”, for parents playing RPGs with their offspring – you will learn far more on the subject there. It’s a lovely group full of genuinely nice and supportive people, and if you can’t speak Polish, you may try using English – they’re all quite familiar with it.

You will learn how great RPGs may be when it comes to building and maintaining relationships – not only between parents and children, but also between siblings, which may be a solution to constant quarrels. After all, having arguments with your ally is different than telling off an annoying younger brother, isn’t it?

If you’re a parent, do consider RPGs as an idea for family fun during rainy summer days, long trips or simply long and lazy afternoons!

Friendship (is magic)

One of the universal truths of the world is simple: you must gather your party before venturing forthAt the risk of repeating myself I say – nothing builds friendships better than a common quest, a party of people you have fun with and, naturally, challenges which make you rely on your teammates. RPGs have it all – and more. Players will soon share their little jokes, will refer to previous adventures and build a real team, ideally with no peer pressure, only mutual understanding.

RPGs are a great way to make children build healthy relationships, trust others and get self-confident. Naturally, we talk about kids here, so they need to be supervised, however, building of team spirit is easier than in sports: in sports there’s usually someone better and someone worse, and in RPG, in an imaginary world, we are all who we want to be.

And even when we fail, it’s because of the silly dice!

Never stop learning questing!

We all know about natural childlike curiosity – children ask questions and are interested in everything until they go to school. Fortunately, it isn’t a case with RPGs, where the heroes never just learn – they embark on a quest to gain the knowledge! And the knowledge isn’t easy to get, oh no! There be dragons, and monsters and all beasties possible guarding this powerful treasure.

And the treasure itself may be a magical phrase in English that make people do something for you (pretty please), a recipe for favourite cookies (something that needs to be immediately tested!), a mathematical formula that will reveal a path to wisdom required to understand a spell… Once you do this little mindshift and show knowledge as what it really is – priceless treasure, your kids will stay curious at least a while longer.

Self-development

A friend of mine works as a teacher assistant for the kids with SEN. She’s an avid RPG player and decided to introduce a simple adventure to her small group of kids. She was eager to try, but she was also slightly worried about one of the kids who’s autistic and not yet ready to communicate. To her surprise, he started not only to answer her encouraging conversation starters, but he also started to initiate the conversations himself! For him, small talk itself is a waste of time, but he realises the importance of small talk in the context of obtaining the information to complete the adventure, his mission.

In her absolutely brilliant book „Superbetter”, Jane McGonigal says that scientific research corroborates the theory that games provide more than just sheer enjoyment – they provide models of better selves. What is more, she says, while we play, we focus on the game, giving it so-called flow of attention, a state of being fully absorbed and engaged, the state of total immersion in the game. It helps people literally feel better, make one’s brain relax and achieve the same results as training of mindfulness.

I don’t want you to encourage children to play games to become better selves, but think of it as added value – all you do is have fun with kids, and at the same time they grow, develop their soft skills, build relationships, learn how to deal with challenges and how to cope with failure…

Not bad for a game, is it?

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7 Free Online Courses in June

7 (1)

Are you already getting ready for your summer break? Gentle wind on a sandy beach, scorching sun in the mountains and nothing, absolutely nothing to do with teaching, school and EFL? If yes, please continue your bliss, but if you ever feel like there’s something you should do apart from relaxing, maybe a short online course or two… Well, here I am, ever-watchful! I’ve found seven nice and free courses that may be quite interesting for teachers… even those ready for their summer break!

1 Language Assessment in the Classroom by the British Council

Start: 03/06/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: anyone interested in understanding how language assessment works

Assessment is something a lot of teachers struggle with – from test preparation to evaluation. Fortunately, British Council has a great course, which will help you learn theoretical aspects of assessment, and then adjust it to your purposes. You will focus on practical ways of assessing language and skills which you can use in your classroom, but more than that, you will have an opportunity to swap ideas with fellow participants and receive professional guidance from course moderators (something BC is really good at!).

2 Our Solar System and Beyond: Teaching Primary Science by the Royal Observatory at Greenwich

Start: 3/06/2019

Duration: 3 weeks

For whom: primary school teachers who have an interest in expanding their knowledge of space

Before you shrug the idea off, think about it: imagine your EFL classes enriched with real-life knowledge you’ll acquire with the real astronomers at the Royal Observatory Greenwich! Wake your childlike curiosity up and explore space… and various resources for your primary science lessons. You’ll explore digital resources, museum tips, video chats and podcasts, and find out what works best for your students. Your EFL lessons will be just cosmically amazing!

3 Improving Your Study Techniques by the University of Groningen

Start: 3/06/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: anyone involved in the learning process

I’m afraid to admit, I’d have probably taken over the world already, if it wasn’t for procrastination. Do you know the phrase “Procrastinators, unite! Fighting tomorrow for better today…” – that might be my motto. And with so many distractions like Facebook or IM… it’s quite difficult to focus on actual learning (one needs to study strategies in order to take over the world!). If you (or your students) experience similar issues, that may be a great course for us! During the course you will reflect on procrastination and motivation, learn how to design a study plan and actually organise your educational life for the better.

Only you or your students best focus on conventional subjects, leave world domination to me.

4 The Art of Teaching Foreign Languages to Young Learners by Universidad Nacional de Córdoba

Start: 10/06/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people interested in teaching foreign languages to young learners

If you’re a rookie teacher, or even an experienced lecturer who’s going to start teaching young learners, this may be a good course for you. The course will take you through the basics of methodological approaches to teaching kids, you will also learn about developmental stages of kids and young teenagers. If you feel stressed when you think about teaching kids, you should find this course – and the discussions – particularly interesting.

5 Introduction to Cybersecurity for Teachers by the Raspberry Pi Foundation

Start: 24/06/2019

Duration: 3 weeks

For whom: teachers interested in cybersecurity

We all know we all need to be careful in the Internet – students and teachers alike. It was proven that younger generation, called “digital natives”, happen to be too careless – they treat the Net as their safe haven, which couldn’t be further from the truth. This course will help you not only be more sensible when it comes to your security, it will also help you design actual cybersecurity classess. You will explore malware, malicious bots, SQL injections, and physical threats to data. You will also build your knowledge of the different tools that protect data and websites – strong passwords, biometrics, two-factor authentication, and firewalls.

6 Teaching English: How to Plan a Great Lesson by the British Council

Start: 24/06/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: English language teachers worldwide

Having a well-prepared lesson plan is a great beginning of a successful lesson. This course will help you look at various professional practices, share your own teaching experiences, and apply what you’ve learnt to your own teaching practice. If you feel like you might need some guidance with regards to classroom management and keeping your students engaged with your teaching methods – that’s the course for you!

7 Languages?

If you really think of going on holidays, you may be interested in learning some basic expressions in foreign languages that may prove really helpful.

There is still time to enroll in a course where you’ll learn the most important expressions – and who knows, maybe you’ll decide to develop your skills in more than one foreign language?

You may participate in basic Spanish classes here.

You will find a basic Italian course here.

I hope you’ll enjoy the courses – they look really interesting, and I guess it’s never too late to learn something new, even during summer break!

Have fun!

Public speaking for teachers? Why not? (book review)

Why would teachers learn about public speaking_

There is only one excuse for a speaker’s asking the attention of his audience: he must have either truth or entertainment for them.
― Dale Carnegie, The Art of Public Speaking

At the moment I’m writing this very note and watching Kung Fu Panda, which is one of my favourite films about being a teacher. True, it may seem a bit unusual source of inspiration, but this is the way I live – looking for inspiration in various places. There may be ever so many materials designed for teaching English as a foreign language, and yet I still enjoy using alternatives that are not commonly identified with teaching.

Like Role-Playing Games, of course.

The main reason I bought Public Speaking for Success was the fact that I’m doing more and more workshops, and I realise I have quite a vast area to improve. Talk Like TED was really inspiring, so I decided to try the book by Dale Carnegie (famous for How to Win Friends and Influence People). To my surprise, even though the book is targeted at salespeople and presenters, teachers still may find it useful. After all, nowadays we need extraordinary means to engage our students.

This book will show you how to make your students pay attention to what you say, to present even the most boring facts in a manner so interesting your students will never forget them (it’s what my interpretation of kraken and zombies did to Present Perfect). You will also read a lot about how famous public speakers of the days of old used to prepare their speeches. And Abraham Lincoln, you will learn a lot about Lincoln (although it won’t be as exciting as Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter which is accidentally quite an interesting book).

Most of the book focuses on speech preparation and its delivery, but each chapter includes some down-to-earth exercises that will help you master public speaking. Following the exercises a reader will be able to practice proper pronunciation, resonance and emphasis (only the reader needs to practice everyday, something yours truly may find quite difficult to do).

The chapter that may be particularly useful for teachers is almost at the end of the book – chapter 14, focused on engaging audience. By the time you get there you will probably think “those ideas are so obvious! I’ve known it all!” – but this chapter sums up everything we really, really need to remember. Concise, surprisingly up-to-date (it’s funny to think, though, that short attention span of an audience was an issue almost 100 years ago…) and useful – something we may read before every lesson to memorise it.

For this reason only, I believe Public Speaking for Success may be also called Public Speaking for Teachers Who Want to Engage Their Students. I’ve mentioned it more than once, every lesson is a story worth telling, and to do so we must be great storytellers not only in choosing a tale, but also its exquisite presentation.

Live an active life among people who are doing worthwhile things, keep eyes and ears and mind and heart open to absorb truth, and then tell of the things you know, as if you know them. The world will listen, for the world loves nothing so much as real life.
― Dale Carnegie, The Art of Public Speaking

Last but not least: you can get this ebook for free! One of the best places on the Internet, Project Gutenberg, offers the ebook version of Public Speaking for Success for free! All you need to do is click here and download your preferable version. Then you may enjoy it as much as I have… only be aware it’s the original version from 1915, not the updated one.

Enjoy and let me know what you think about the book!

Public Speaking for Success: The Complete Program, Revised and Updated
Carnegie, Dale
Publisher: TarcherPerigee; REV and Updated ed. edition (May 4, 2006)
ISBN-13: 978-1585424924

7 Free Online Courses in April

7freeonline coursesin April

April is still a pretty moody month, and the best thing one may wish for is weather that is quite stable. Unfortunately, we’re bound to experience the mixture of sunny and gloomy days, but it’s all good since we know what April showers bring.

Free online courses, of course, they bring free online courses.

Below you will find my monthly selection of free courses you may take online. Hopefully they will let you – and your students, as I found some nice options that may be used as interesting projects – bloom just like flowers.

Kickstart Your Career: Getting Ahead at University by QUT

Start: 01/04/2019

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: students who want to get the most from your university experience

It’s a great idea to use this short course as an additional project with your students who aim to pass their exams and attend higher education. It’s only two weeks, but you may use it as a nice opportunity to show them the merits of self-education and discuss their progress in the classroom. Show them you believe in their potential!

The IB Extended Essay: Managing your Research Project by the University of Leeds and the International Baccalaureate

Start: 01/04/2019

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: students who want to plan and write a successful extended essay

There are more and more students interested in IB as a form of education, and this course will definitely help them most. However, I recommend this course as a little bit of help when we teach our students how to structure their essay, write in an academic style and manage their time effectively so your project runs smoothly. Similarly to the previous course, I would run it as an additional project for more ambitious students. I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun – and if your students feel like it, they may still join another course on IB approach.

Understanding Autism by the University of Kent

Start: 01/04/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: teachers who want to learn more about autism

Identified 70 years ago, autism is still a difficult topic for society. We seem to learn more and more about it, and if you work with people you might want to take this course in order to study autism and its spectrum. The course will help you not only study, but also discuss the issues of communication and social relations as well as investigate co-occurring conditions. It’s a great course, especially for teachers of children and young learners.

Caring for Vulnerable Children by the University of Strathclyde and CELCIS

Start: 15/04/2019

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: people who want to develop their career towards child care field

In times of shrinking public services, the task of caring for vulnerable children has never been more challenging. This course will be of great help to all teachers and parents who want to learn more about risk and vulnerability. The main benefit is the possibility of discussing different methods of practice and different possible interventions.

Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching by Lancaster University

Start: 15/04/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people with an interest in dyslexia and language learning

I have already taken up this course and recommended it months ago, but if you haven’t participated in it yet – it’s a great opportunity to do it now, as dyslectic students tend to underperform in foreign language classes. You will learn a lot of things about dyslexia and its co-occurring conditions. If you’re in need of materials for dyslectics, you may visit a page by my admirable friend Karina Frejlich. She has a lot of materials designed for dyslectic students you may but at the affordable price.

Managing Behaviour for Learning by the National STEM Learning Centre

Start: 22/04/2019

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: teachers who want to work on effective behaviour management in classroom

I recommend this course for all the teachers who struggle with classroom discipline, an issue that becomes more and more problematic. This course will help you observe how your behaviour influences your students’, how you control emotional responses and interact with students. Then, you’ll learn techniques and develop your capability to achieve consistency in managing behaviour, recognise positive behaviour and build trust in your classroom.

Professional Development for Early Career Teachers by the University of East Anglia

Start: 29/04/2019

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: teachers starting out in their careers

It’s a common question once you become a teacher that goes: “now what?”. This course will help you face your new responsibilities and duties. Through the course you will reflect on and identify your professional development needs, explore behaviour management strategies, pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning, ways to prioritise your workload and more. Just like the previous course, I believe it’s a great choice for freshies, but it may be a nice refresher for all of us.

I believe you will find these courses useful both for you and your students. Have fun enjoying longer and sunnier days!

Creative Confidence – not only in your classroom

not only in your classroom

Once in a while I come across the book that changes my perspective on work or life in general. Last year I discovered SuperBetter and Jane McGonigal who seriously changed my life into a way better one. This time, I discovered brothers Kelley with their “Creative Confidence” and I thought I absolutely owe you a review of this book. However, I am only able to share some impressions, as it is quite impossible to write a review of something that made me feel like I can change the world if I only try.

Which in my case means “take over the world and become the Evil Empress of the World” but hey, aim high!

Flip! Dare! Spark! Leap! Seek! Team! Move! – all those action words are simply the titles of the chapters, but they pretty much show you what the book is like, full of action, positive vibes, and fun. You will find personal stories mixed with the research results and ideas that are meant to make you think – and they do, indeed. In my case, I had to take a break after ten pages or so to summarise ideas and switch the general concepts from the environment of an American university to a Polish edublogger and DoS… but the fact that you feel encouraged to try and think differently makes this book quite inspiring.

What makes the book worth reading? In Poland we have a saying “to let everything go and leave for Bieszczady” which globally would translate to “let everything go and leave for Iceland” (as both Bieszczady and Iceland are beautiful places but no sane person would ever start living there for good – and yes, I know Polish people are the greatest minority in Iceland which pretty much explains the Bieszczady saying thing). Anyway, the thing is – even when (or especially when) you’re a successful individual, quite well-off, with a stable relationship and a trusted group of friend, something suddenly snaps and you suffocate and feel you have to leave and start anew. This is pretty much what happened with David and Tom Kelley, brothers who had everything, except for one tiny thing: fun.

I’m not really comparing teachers to rich and successful businessmen, but the main question remains: it’s not easy to have fun once you’re supposed to be a pillar of a society, is it? As Alexander Woollcott said, “anything in life that’s any fun is either immoral, illegal or fattening.” Apart from this fact which is both sad and true, it’s difficult to have fun when you’re a teacher. You probably like your job, but the amount of paperwork, conferences and tedious routine makes it less and less exciting. That’s when you know you need joy – and creativity brings so much fun!

You will find a lot of ideas and inspirations to wake up your creativity and find new confidence. I think it’s a perfect book for the upcoming spring because the easiest visualisation of the effect of this book will show your creativity and the joy of thinking out of the box blooming like first flowers. I cannot share the ways of rediscovering the forgotten paths of creativity you will find in this book, bar one: the fragment that concerns gaming.

Author, futurist and game designer, Jane McGonigal talked to us recently about how video gaming can spark its own form of creative confidence. Jane makes a convincing case that harnessing the power of video games can have a major impact on life in real world. In the realm of video games, the level of challenge and reward rises proportionately with a gamer’s skills; moving forward always requires concentrated effort, but the next goal is never completely out of reach. This contributes to what Jane calls „urgent optimism”: the desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle, motivated by the belief that you have a reasonable hope for success. Gamers always believe that an „epic win” is possible – that it is worth trying, and trying now, over and over again. In the euphoria of an epic win, gamers are shocked to discover the extent of their capabilities

So maybe instead of letting everything go and leaving for Bieszczady/Iceland we may simply play a game… especially a game where you can act out a person living in such a wonderfully remote place – because the best thing about it you can always go back to your comfortable room, favourite pub and, yes, the Internet!

Kelley, Tom and David

Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All

ISBN: 978-0385349369

Adult students, let’s roll! (Role-Playing Teaching: Part 13)

Adult students, let's roll

I started playing RPGs when I was 15, so writing a post on why RPGs are awesome for teenagers would be an easy choice, but since games come so natural to younger learners, I want to share some aspects of RPGs that are really beneficial for adult learners of English.

Taking off the pressure of being correct.

One of my favourite activities with adult students who are hesitant about speaking is to pretend to make mistakes in their native tongue and asking them what they would do if a foreigner asked them something in broken language. They invariably answer they would try to understand them nonetheless and that’s how I try to make them see that people will try to understand their English even when their language is somewhat faulty. Then I ask them to communicate in the native language and make as many mistakes as they can. They usually have a lot of fun and feel much more at ease afterwards.

This is exactly the case with RPGs. By assuming a role it’s easier for adults to make mistakes – after all it’s not real them who say something incorrectly, it’s just a character. By distancing themselves from the role, they are more open, courageous and eager to communicate, even at the cost of making a mistake.

Making friends.

It’s not easy to make new friends once you’re an adult – workmates, children, everyday duties and responsibilities take so much time one doesn’t really have time for friendship. But trust me on this, you can meet new people and make actual friendships. Playing RPGs means making decisions, doing things together, working on plans and experiencing adventures – and it may sound funny, but our brains don’t really see the difference between imaginary experiences and the real ones. That means we start to feel the sense of belonging with our “team”, common responsibility for decisions (the good, the bad and the silly ones).

What does it have to do with your classroom? Have you ever worked with a bunch of friends? The relationship between your students – and you, of course – gets stronger and you become far more supportive. People feel more comfortable and we all know learning in a comfortable environment in a company of friends sounds like a real adventure!

Mindshift.

When it comes to adventures, RPGs are a real gift to your brain. It will happily play along being deceived, being offered a quest of fun, not a mundane duty of learning. Think of a brain of an adult person, tired of dull routine – and suddenly facing new challenges! And even better – those challenges are still an element of the game, so potential failure will not result in stress.

In her book “Superbetter”, Jane McGonigal presents the results of the research which clearly shows that people playing games are more daring, ready for a challenge and less prone to stress. By playing RPGs our students not only practise English, but also develop their mind.

Regaining childlike curiosity.

How come children are so thrilled when it comes to learning new things and yet we lose this natural curiosity once we start formal education? Our brains too soon get used to the familiar and boring ways of school subjects, tests, exams, papers etc.

No wonder learning quickly loses its charm and becomes yet another duty, but with RPGs we may conceal the educational goal behind the pretence of fun and playing games. It makes our brains catch its second wind and actually start enjoying learning, as it comes in a form of entertainment, not another dreary lesson.

Uncovering new areas to study.

Playing RPGs makes your brain wake up – and wake up hungry for new knowledge. You won’t even realise when your students will start looking for new words and idioms to improve their communication – after all everyone wants their voice to be heard in the game!

More than that, if you decide to pick a system set in a somewhat realistic world, your students will suddenly try to scavenge for information they would normally be quite uninterested in. I remember when I started reading on various things I wanted to learn just to make my character more realistic and credible.

Means of escape.

This might be a bit tricky, just like with computer games. On one hand, RPGs may be a lovely way to relax a little bit and learn something new. On the other hand, one needs to be aware of the potential danger of escapism – and it’s ever so easy to run into the imaginary world!

Nonetheless, it’s a great fun and adventure for an adult learner to experience something unusual, take a bunch of new-made friends and go on an adventure… and learn a language, communicate, still grow and regain this childlike attitude to new things.

So let’s add some RPG into our classes!